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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Inside: Challenging the Definition of Entertainment

It's tough to put into words the combination of reactions that came to me after experiencing the French horror/thriller Inside (a.k.a. À l'intérieur). The tale of a nine-months-pregnant widow being mercilessly tortured and stalked by a crazed woman out to literally steal the baby from her womb, it's certainly not an easy watch.

Directed by Alexandro Bustillo and Julien Maury (recently booted from the Hellraiser remake), Inside is the kind of movie that makes you question why you wanted to see it in the first place. It would be easy to dismiss it as just another depressing and sadistic piece of torture porn, but that's not really what it is. I wouldn't categorize it with garbage like Hostel and Saw III, which truly earn their pornography tag by making titillation through explicit violence their primary goal.

That's not what Inside is all about. It is disturbingly graphic, and shatters horror film taboos left and right, but I can honestly say that many of the depictions of violence were not gratuitous, in that they served a story and a theme that was every bit as unsettling, if not moreso. They are not there for their own sake.

Inside is a very well-made movie, with excellent photography by Laurent Barès, a riveting score by François Eudes (sound designer for the Hills Have Eyes remake), and a constantly building and expertly constructed aura of suspense. It's two main leads, newcomer Alysson Paradis as victim Sarah and tenured French leading lady Béatrice Dalle as the nameless antagonist, both turn in powerful performaces in roles quite rare for films of this kind.

All this quality was enough to distract me from the overall unsavoriness of the movie itself, as well as from some its noteable flaws. There are several gaping holes in logic and lapses in believability. There's also the problem of a paper-thin plot that is supported mainly by the constant influx of fresh victims, much like the classic slasher movie formula. And then there's the sporadic CGI, which, while ambitious, is enough to take you out of the movie in parts.

But as my wife so succinctly said to me as the credits rolled, "There are a lot of people who wouldn't be able to watch this movie." As a parent and someone who has vicariously experienced pregnancy, I perceived that the difficulty I had with it might not be as strong for someone who had not experienced those things. Conversely, for many women of a particularly sensitive nature, I could see this picture provoking nothing but disgust and contempt.

After seeing Inside, I found myself doing what I usually do after seeing a movie that has disturbed me--watching the special features, almost as a way of proving to myself on a subconscious level that it never really happened, that these people are just actors and everyone is fine. And as good a movie as it is, I really question its rewatchability. I, for one, cannot imagine subjecting myself to it again.

Complex reactions for a thematically complex film. At its heart, Inside is a movie about loss and what it can do to us, what we allow it to do to us. It's not fun, and I don't know if I would even use the word "enjoyable". But it is very intriguing, and well worth a look.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, and timely because I just watched Frontiere(s), which like A l'Interieur approaches contemporary French social issues through the medium of a pregnant woman being savagely beaten. There's a thesis waiting to be written there, but in the meantime I'll suggest that watching Frontiere(s), which is little more than a cynical and lazy attempt to out-Hostel Hostel, should reinforce the fact that A l'Interieur, while definitely uncomfortable viewing, does have some worth.

Anonymous said...

Well, must say, after watching l'Interieur, only thing that was left in my mind was the word - disgusting. and not in a good-horror way. And after some thoughts i see this movie this way - disgusting, sick and unneeded. Could be a good movie, but theres too much of stuff just to get over - not possible (theres no way someone could survive that injuries till the end of the movie, no way someone could perform self traheotomy (why was that in the movie anyway?!), particulary in that state). And at the end, when you see a reason for all that s**t we've been through, its just not valid enough.
Not a bad movie, but just turned out to be disturbingly sick for reasons stated above...


B-Sol said...

The self-tracheotomy was a bit hard for me to swallow as well--pardon the pun of course.

Anonymous said...

it dosen`t matter how sickened or appalled you might be by "INSIDE" its films like this that represent the future for horror film making, (in fact the horror films that they`ll be making 10 years from now will make "INSIDE" look like "MARY POPPINS"), if you cant deal with that you should be watching.....er....."MARY POPPINS".

B-Sol said...

Damn...so it's either Inside or Mary Poppins? Can't we agree on a happy medium?

Soap Magic said...

In my opinion, Inside is the best horror movie of the modern era. Although I have to agree with you on how there are some flaws in this movie. The part that I didn't like was the part when one of the policemen turned on the electricity, then started beating Sarah. First of all, I thought he was dead, and why would he attack Sarah, the woman that he was trying to protect earlier in the movie? Some of my theories are that either Inside got supernatural for some reason, or the policeman was dying and mistook Sarah for the psycho woman. I doubt the former's true, and if he was dying, then how could he have the energy to stand up and beat Sarah with that weapon? That part really confused me.

What scared me about Inside, was that woman. I couldn't believe all of the things she did! The part that got to me was when she crushed that poor cat's head. Also, the painful things she does to her victims, and showing no guilt scared me. There were also parts of the film that showed that the woman was human. Insane, but still human.

There are three scenes that are imprinted in my mind. The first scene was when the woman tells Sarah that she "wants one" (referring to a baby). The second scene was (spoilers) the scene where the woman cuts Sarah's stomach open. The third scene was when the woman (who's face is severly burnt), is holding Sarah's baby, and the shot of Sarah's corpse. These scenes convinced me that Inside is one of the best movies of the modern era (although this might change once I see more movies).

Another thing, I think I can explain the self-tracheotomy. I think Sarah was choking on her own blood, so she decided to give herself a tracheotomy. You could hear her breathing better after she gave herself that.

B-Sol said...

Thanks for the well-thought-out review/response, Soap Magic.

Anonymous said...


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